Zone extensions version 2.0

December 16, 2008
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When the Michigan Strategic Fund reviews the Renaissance Zone extension requests this week from Grand Rapids, board members won’t be determining the fate of 2.5 applications from the city.

Instead they’ll be looking at 2.0, as the developer who only had half of his application approved by city commissioners a few weeks ago has decided not to go through with the approval process and the proposed renovation project.

Wealthy Street Historical Development LLC wanted to renovate 632-636 Wealthy St. SE into ground-floor retail space and upper-level condominiums. Todd Ponstein said his firm would invest $1.2 million into the property, which WSHD already owns, if the nearly tax-free zone designation was extended for another 12 years. The project was estimated to generate about 16 new jobs and add up to 12 new residents to the district. But city commissioners only gave WSHD an extension for half the building — the lower-level retail space — and not for the upper-level condos.

City Economic Development Director Kara Wood said Ponstein decided not to complete the review process and also has put the project on hold for the immediate future as he can’t make the numbers work without the tax break. She said there was a possibility that WSHD may apply again for an extension next year. The firm can do that as the current zone doesn’t expire until the end of 2011.

The MSF, comprised of board members from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., is scheduled to review the city’s two remaining extension requests on Wednesday. Dan Henrickson, owner of True North Architecture, Construction and Investment has requested one for 607 Dewey Ave. NW. Via Design has done the same for the building at 563 Grandville Ave. SW. Both are asking for 12-year extensions.

City commissioners approved a brownfield tax credit last week for a new project that Guy Bazzani and Baird Hawkins are planning at 1350 Lake Drive SE and a nearby property at 316 Carlton Ave. SE. They plan to build a three-story structure on the sites with roughly 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and from 16 to 18 apartments on the upper levels.

A vacant two-story building on the Lake Drive property will be razed; the project is expected to create from 12 to 30 full-time jobs.

The development will seek a LEED-NC Silver standard, at minimum, and the developers have a goal of building the region’s first zero-carbon footprint project that will feature geo-thermal, wind and solar energy sources and a green roof.

Bazzani, owner of Bazzani Associates, and Hawkins, Lake Drive Development LLC principal, are investing $3.1 million into the development they’re doing as Robinson Lake LLC.

“I’m very excited to see this property developed,” said Second Ward Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss. “They do everything well.”

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